Can not, cannot, can Not bring myself to begin the chapter with the looming deadline.  It’s much too soon after school ended, and much too early to have recovered from exhaustion on just about every level.  A four-day break at the beach–with only one walk by the ocean; sea levels appear to have risen over there–allowed outlines for two pending chapters to be skinnily roughed out.  Outlines for the larger projects await.  Today I was sure I would begin, but could muster only a one-paragraph e-mail to myself (a strategy I use when the fear of writing is larger than the state of absorption wrought by its actuality).

Instead, I have an insane urge to: slowdown, simplify, smallify, as Cecile Andrews would have it (  I want to restore internal and external places to order and sanity.  I find myself looking at close to 400 e-mails wondering why they are in my Inbox; bills to be filed; paper to be dealt with; fridge that needs to be organized (did that!); books to be put away or returned to the library; smog check for the car; and the list goes on and on for those of us who love to make lists and then check off items that are easily done and move items that for some strange reason one keeps putting off and off and off and off.

Among which is the question, do I quit while I’m still ahead, or do I throw in the towel and now that the kids are older and 9/11 has in fact ripened to its logical and much larger threat (as I discovered in My Journey After 9/11), simply jump off the precipice?  By that I don’t mean heading off to the Grand Canyon or any such absurdity (beautiful though it is to look at, peer into, and perhaps if one were a fabled wingéd creature, take flight and lovingly descend to explore). Rather, I mean take the plunge, dive in, just write?  KD says it much better than I:  Writing doesn’t know where it is going. … Writers write.  (  Margaret Atwood said something similar in that auditorium in Sutton, Surrey, UK all those years ago  (98/99-my Steele leave): What do you do? I am a writer.  I am a writer because I write.  I am not a writer when I am not writing.  I am a writer when I am writing.  Not the exact words, of course, but close enough.

And the element of surprise.  I don’t know what I think until I write it.  Many years ago a friend of mine scoffed at people who are so stupid that they have to write to think.  I cringed. Of course I think (often I just sit, too!), but when I am writing, I am thinking things I didn’t know I was thinking, or maybe it isn’t me thinking, it is thinking through me, via me, constrained by my increasing inability to recall words (and I claim–pretend?–to be an academic, go figure), colored by my sensibilities and experiences and emotions and memories.  So the fear is always It Is Not Good Enough and then the writing begins, and it turns into It Is and all external/internal judgement feels like asking milk to be blood, or a stone, or something it is not wired to be and probably quite useless to the person who wants a taste of blood or a stone to set a house upon but quite sufficient for that youngest child of mine who still passes up Coke or Pepsi for a long glass of ice-cold, thirst-quenching milk.

So this grace that passes through chooses when and what to write me and much as I have chased it all day, all I could think to do was answer this, clear that, clean there, and walk the dog.